Investments, Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary (CS) Moses Kuria has met 10 sitting presidents and a former president in an interval of one month, igniting speculations of clashing roles with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under CS Alfred Mutua.
Even though Mr. Kuria on Monday night dismissed the rumors during an interview on Citizen TV saying that their roles were well cut out, one would think that the Foreign Affairs CS is Mr. Kuria since the President has been sending him everywhere even when there exists a Foreign Affairs Ministry.
“In this month of February, I have met 11 presidents. In all these tours I was not sending myself, I was appointed as a special envoy by President William Ruto to talk to our neighbours and try to re-establish our leadership in terms of the region, trying to push through a couple of agreements that we feel are of strategic value and importance to the country,” said Mr. Kuria.
The former candid MP for Gatundu South, who in 2022 distinguished himself as a key campaigner for President Ruto in Mt. Kenya region during the August 9 General Election, and later awarded a ministerial post, is at the helm of a key ministry that is spearheading the country’s journey of becoming an industrial hub in the region by 2030. Since his appointment, he has made several pronouncements, some of which have not been received well by his critics.
The first storm was related to second-hand clothes (mitumba) debate after a video emerged online of a bitter exchange between him and a woman over the subject at a consultative meeting with industry stakeholders. The CS later said his remarks had been misinterpreted, noting that the plan was to increase consumption of locally made clothes hence decrease the number of Kenyans buying mitumba.
Weeks later, he ignited another storm when he said there were plans to evict squatters from the East African Portland Cement land in Athi River, to pave the way for the construction of a cargo airport.
Those who like him describe him as a brilliant person with extensive corporate career experience. They add that he is the right person to lead such a ministry which has the potential of opening up the country for more Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and create jobs which the Kenya Kwanza government promised during the campaigns.
While defending the visits, Mr. Kuria said some trade projects between Kenya and the respective countries had stalled and that he had been working to push them after taking over the docket.
For the stuck projects, he said, the Kenya Kwanza government felt that only presidential-level decisions would unlock them. “It is not about defense and diplomacy. My mission is purely about the economy, business and trade,” the CS said. He added that he has so far travelled to major business cities across the world to benchmark with the world’s leading economies.
He further said that from his benchmarking trips, he would now offer investors an environment that is equivalent to what other countries offer.
In October last year, during a Kenya Association of Manufacturers meeting, President Ruto backed Mr. Kuria’s ability to succeed in his new capacity. The President told the audience to forget about the CS’s misgivings, pointing out that he’s an intellect who would transform the sector.
In his latest trip last week, the CS led a Kenyan delegation to African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) in Cairo, Egypt, where they focused on several key issues including, readiness of Kenya’s public Special Economic Zones and Industrial Parks, including the Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone, the Naivasha Special Economic Zone, the Lamu Special Economic Zone, the Nairobi Financial District Economic Zone, and the Kinanie Leather Park.
Mr. Kuria also highlighted Kenya’s agenda to roll-out County Aggregation Centres and Industrial Parks across all 47 counties as a way of promoting a value chain approach in facilitating the export-led growth economic model and establishing 100 export warehouses globally to provide global markets for Kenyan products. Measures to alleviate the immediate challenges of food and fertiliser sourcing were discussed as well as financing and the activities towards the practical implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Kenya is focused on increasing its share of manufacturing sector contribution to GDP from 7 percent to 20 percent in the next 10 years, share of exports to GDP to 30 percent from current levels of 10 percent and increasing FDI from US$500 million annually to US$10 billion.
During his vetting by the National Assembly Committee on Appointments last year, Mr. Kuria had expressed regrets on his perceived extremism or divisiveness on his part which he said had been shaped by the kind of political culture present then. He, however, promised going forward that he would ensure that the country has a culture where political competition is not enmity.